New Vistas

For various self-care reasons, I did not run for three weeks, after my weekend at Wilbur. Sometimes, when I pick up again afterwards, there is something like a subcutaneous itch as my body adjusts to the demands again. It didn’t happen so much this time, and my foot did not hurt on the way round, though I could feel its tenderness afterwards.

For this run, I was trying out a new route – and in such cases I always go easy, as there is never any way to know what you are letting yourself in for. I worked out my route of trails and steps on OpenStreetMaps, and also looked at the lay of the land on Apple Maps, but neither of these is the same as putting one foot in front of the other to navigate the route.

Last week I was staying over in Marin, looking after some cats. For my daily routine, it meant more time in a car, driving over various bridges and either coasting down empty-ish freeways, or getting stuck in endless jams trying to cross Berkeley – the usual story, that luckily I don’t have to confront often (the worst jam was made worse by the fact that the gas gauge seemed to be dropping by the minute).
On the plus side, with good weather both weekends I was there, I could take my bike over pleasant and familiar routes – the old rail routes through Larkspur and San Rafael, the China Camp loop and Sleepy Hollow – without the first hour or more of getting out of the city and over from Sausalito. I also explored parts of the Bay Trail – having done this over the new year south of the city, it was fun to look for other sections. Though they didn’t exactly make for contiguous loops, the views were outstanding, and of course totally car-free, which I am enjoying more and more in these days of distracted driving.

The Camino Alto was one of the first routes I learned to ride when I got to San Francisco, along with the back way from Mill Valley to Four Corners (though that becomes less and less enjoyable these days). Recently I have added the Meadowsweet option alongside the 101 if I don’t feel like taking on the Camino Alto climb. For my run, I was going to navigate the hillsides that the Camino cuts through, and see if there was a plausible ‘middle way” as I had seen on a map (of course there is also the old rail tunnel, but there don’t seems to be moves to re-open that one, unlike the wonderful route from Larkspur to San Rafael).

I took a loop of the flat rail trails to start, so as not to be climbing right away, and then found my little staircase off the main road and into the hills. The scene was a typical one for the area – tendrils of road snaking up the hillsides, houses built on precarious slopes, either nestled in the tall trees, or with commanding views of the bay. The last few turns of the road were surprisingly steep, but then I came out to the fire road on the ridge that divided part of the Mill Valley bowl from the Larkspur and Scott’s Valley bowl. The air was fresh, flowers and butterflies and only the faintest sounds of the distant highway. A few dog walkers, and views to the Headlands and Coyote Ridge, above Green Gulch, Diablo and Richmond; perfect for running – and mostly downhill.
I crossed the Camino Alto half-way down the south side – right at the short steeper section I know so well from many climbs – and made my way down to the other part of the old rail route, before looping round and finding the fire road that took me very quickly over to the Corte Madera side. I knew the distances involved would not be that great – though it was still a decent work-out – but it totally re-wired my mental geography of the area.

IMG_E0394.jpgI took my phone with me to ride the Bay Trail, as I was uncertain of the route. This is not a section I would be in a hurry to ride again, but it was kind of amazing to be out there, with views of China Camp and Mount Tam.

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